The Truth Behind Cervical Cancer That You Need To Know

Cervical Cancer awareness has been on the limelight lately, especially after the Poonam Pandey disaster. We spoke to experts who told us what we need to know about the disease.

Published On Feb 16, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024

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Cervical Cancer has gained quite a bit of attention lately, and that is because actor-model Poonam Pandey created a stir on the internet by faking her death by the disease. And while she received a lot of flak for it, the conversation around the disease got started. Thousands of women lose their battle against the disease. Is it because we lack awareness of the disease in India, making Cervical Cancer reportedly the second-leading cause of death among women?

Dr Kanchan Divekar, DNB (Diplomate National Board) and DG (Diploma in Gynaecology and Obstetrics) from Dandekar clinic reveals, “Most women do not find the time to go to a doctor for their own health. They think that looking after their family is the most important thing in their life. Usually, they will go to the doctor only if they are pregnant. They do not go for preventive visits. They never come to a gynaecologist to just make sure that they are alright. Cervical cancer is more common when women are sexually active at a young age. A lot of women in villages in India yet get married early, so that is another factor. Also, it is common when women have more children, so when they have 4-5 kids, they are more likely to have cervical cancer."

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For the unversed, Cervical Cancer develops in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus connecting the vagina. There are many women who do not prioritise their health and fear the dreaded word cancer. However, Dr Krutika Makhija, Fertility specialist at Utsav fertility Centre, Panvel DNB, OBGY, Diploma in Reproductive Medicine (KIEL, Germany) reveals, “It's not about ignorance. It is just the mindset, or the way people are brought up in the majority parts of India where the family, kids come first. The patients are not really trusting the doctors. They just feel that they are given a necessary test but do not know the importance of the same. They do not want to believe that they need to do the test, thinking they do not have any symptoms, why should we do the test. Lacking the awareness, communication. If women do not come out and say something is happening, then how will health be prioritised?”

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One of the biggest causes of Cervical Cancer is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which Dr Sanjay Dudhat senior consultant surgical oncologist reveals:

  1. This is a virus induced cancer.
  2. Not having genital hygiene, multiple pregnancies in short intervals are also the causes.
  3. Sexual act or sexual intercourse before 20, multiple sexual partners leading to sexual transmission and smoking which also rises cervical cancer.
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In simple language, Dr Sanjay explains, “HPV are of 100 types out of which certain viruses are detected. Initially, it was 16, 18, 11 viruses and then they detected nine viruses which are responsible for cervical cancer. Transmission of HPV virus happens through oral sex, skin to skin contact via sexual contact can also cause penile, genital cancers apart from cervical and oral." 

He also reveals that, “The vaccines that are developed is not only for the females but for the males also who are doing sex with the sex workers who are HPV positive ladies.” Well, he gives hope by furthering stating that not everyone gets exposed to the HPV virus. “If there is monogamous sexuality and no other sexual partner, so they may not get HPV infection," he quips.

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Timing is everything, and Dr Kanchan explains, “The earlier the cancer is detected, like when the cancer is restricted only to the cervix, you can do a radical surgery, remove the uterus. A person has 90 per cent chances of being cancer-free in five years. If the cancer is detected when it has already passed to nearby organs like bladder, rectum then survival drops.”

You can prevent cervical cancer if you are detected early and take the correct vaccination shot. “The earlier the vaccination, the better. Vaccines should be given to pre-adolescents like nine-year-olds and if it has given to 9–14-year-olds we give in 2 doses. If it is given post 15, then three doses of the vaccine are given. Right now, the vaccine which is available is around 4000 Rupees a dose but soon there will be newer brands which will be cheaper. It will be around INR 2400 per dose for a vaccine. All vaccines can have minor side effects but not known to have major side effects," feels Dr Kanchan.

A pap smear is one of the most effective ways to detect cervical cancer. “Every woman after the age of 35 should undergo. If the pap smear test is normal, then probably every 3 years it can be repeated. We just take a small scraping from the cervix area which is also called as the mouth of the uterus. The scraping is sent for testing into the laboratories. Nowadays, they also try to find if there is infection, if viral then is it HPV and what type of HPV?” says Dr Krutika. 

She also feels that the test is not painful, there is just ‘discomfort’. Shed off the stigmas dear women. Dr Krutika also adds that the test takes less than a minute and can diagnose Cervical Cancer as early as the pre-cancerous stage when you can prevent it from turning into a cancer and save many lives. For, cancer is not the end of your life, if we collectively spread proper awareness via social media, celebrities, government campaigns, schools and on individual level.


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